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Green blob in control at Environment Agency

I can't help feeling that the resignation of Environment Agency chairman Sir Philip Dilley was all a bit overdone. As chairman, he doesn't presumably actually involve himself in the day-to-day running of the place; that's the job of the chief executive. The chairman is supposed to set the strategic direction, which is not something you even really want to be thinking about in the middle of a major crisis. Frankly a beach in Barbados was probably the best place for him while there were major floods around.

Now you can certainly take potshots at Sir Philip for the general state of the Environment Agency, which appears to be both thoroughly incompetent and riddled with corruption, but he was at least an engineer by background. Take a look at who has stepped into his shoes, at least on a temporary basis: the green blob personified. Emma Howard Boyd appears to have made a career in "corporate social responsibility" and is a director of a green investment fund as well as having roles in any number of green NGOs.

It will be interesting to see if they keep her on.

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Reader Comments (43)

She is probably regarded by senior civil servants as "a safe pair of hands" and that is what their political masters will be looking for.

Jan 12, 2016 at 9:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

She is choosing new wellies now. Decisions, decisions.

Jan 12, 2016 at 9:27 AM | Unregistered Commenterssat

So, a conflict of interest doesn't arise then? Who makes these bizarre appointments?

Jan 12, 2016 at 9:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

Actually the last person you want around in a crisis is the Chief Executive. What you need are the staff and managers that know precisely what they are doing and let them deliver. You haven't time to make sure that the Chief Executive is happy and comfortable and a good CEO (and Chairman) knows not to get in the way of the staff they appointed to deal with the emergency.

It was completely inappropriate to require the Chairman of the EA to fly back across the world just so that he could be photographed by the media looking grave and concerned.

I find it astonishing that someone who appears to be a competent and well qualified chairman, getting to grips with a failing organisation has to fall on his sword to appease the PC brigade whilst on the very same day the incompetent management of Southern Health whose mismanagement caused the deaths of a large number of vulnerable patients is allowed to sit in front of the assembled press corps and insist that no one is going to resign or be fired,

Jan 12, 2016 at 9:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterArthur Dent

She is smiling beatifically. Take note, climate heathens.

Jan 12, 2016 at 9:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterAila

As usual, it was the cover-up that did for him.

If he had said a) unfortunate that I am on holiday b) my staff deal with these aspects anyway ands c) I shall be back at once anyway to "do what I can". he would have been fine.

My impression for some years is that we are being failed by our senior civil servants and especially the political appointees. It may well have been always thus but it is painfully obvious these days.

Jan 12, 2016 at 9:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage

Arthur Dent

Competence is not a requirement for such a position and rather than falling upon his sword I would suspect that Sir Phillip being of the Engineering persuasion would rather distance himself completely from the political shenanigans being imposed upon the role by those who would be king makers.
I would think that anyone who would be capable of seriously fulfilling this role will have just taken their phones off the hook for the foreseeable future.

Jan 12, 2016 at 9:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterLord Beaverbrook

Spot on about the media witch hunt against the Chairman, which just reveals their ignorance about how the world works, good on him for sticking two fingers up at the job.

The newt worriers at the EA and elsewhere are keeping stumm for now about the lack of dredging, knowing that lack of money and lack of interest in basic engineering will prevent more than a token effort at it. Prof Carolyn Roberts at Gresham College refers to dredging as "assault":

Jan 12, 2016 at 9:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterMikky

Brilliant politics by Jim Bevan and John Curtin.

Jan 12, 2016 at 9:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

God help us - come back Sir Philip.

Jan 12, 2016 at 10:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Constable

Spot on Lord Leaverbrook.
It would be specious to invoke the old observation about sinking ships and ... He has decided that he wants nothing to do with a ship riddled with borers.

Jan 12, 2016 at 10:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterGraeme No.3

There was an article last week stating that local authority drainage engineers have become victims of the cuts in public spending. In comparison, the Environment Agency in England and the NRW Wales seem to be staffed by ecologists, which is code for romantic incompetent.

Jan 12, 2016 at 10:49 AM | Unregistered Commentertrefjon

ssat: She'll only need new wellies if she can get stuck in to do a bit of manual dredging - but I don't see it, somehow.

Jan 12, 2016 at 10:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterMike Spilligan

I don't disagree that having the chairman on hand is not essential to handling the flooding but at the same time it proves that he is surplus to requirements, which is an eye opener given what he's paid. "The chairman is supposed to set the strategic direction." True but when that direction is under question, who else but him to speak to the public? He could have done it from Barbados via video link as a short-term measure. When you're raking in loads of money for a part time job 'I'm on my hols' is a poor excuse, but worse, the EA fibbed by not admitting where he was. By the sound of it he spent a lot of time 'doing his job' from Barbados and he quit because he doesn’t want to change.

Jan 12, 2016 at 11:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Since she was at the head of the "idiot" queue she was the first choice. Not the best person for such an important position.

Jan 12, 2016 at 11:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Marshall

Yes of course the part time, but immensely well paid, chairman of an organisation like the Environment Agency is there to set the organisation’s strategic direction, and not to undertake day to day management during a crisis. The problem in this case is that the utterances of the EA, whose activities consume vast quantities of public funds and can have a shattering impact people’s lives, need to be credible, particularly when AGW is blamed for major flood problems and major flooding can be used, very effectively, to shape public opinion on climate change.

As I understand it, Sir Philip has admitted to signing off a press release that attempted to neutralise criticism of his absence at a time of crisis by falsely claiming that he was at home with his, no doubt adoring family, when he was in fact on a Caribbean island with which neither he nor his spouse have any connection other than owning a holiday home there. So evidently he considers that untruthfulness is a legitimate strategy when in a tight corner, as for instance if the organisation is likely to face unwelcome publicity.

All of which raises two legitimate questions: should the EA have a chairman who is dishonest, and would his presence at a time of crisis have made it rather more likely that he would have sufficient knowledge and understanding of the EA’s operations to effectively set its strategic direction in future and thereby afford those who are vulnerable to flooding with the level of protection that they deserve?

Jan 12, 2016 at 11:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterTonyN

I agree with TinyCO2. The job of a chairman these days is to be the puböic face of an organisation, press a bit of flesh and above all act as a distraction for the press away from the people who are doing the "real" work-

If one is earning squillions for a 3 day week, then spending a couple of thousand ( which could probably be put on expenses ) to fly back and set up a makeshift "incident center" in some village hall near Carlisle and .declaim about "unprecedented" or "new kind of rain" or "government cuts" would have worked wonders on telly and showed that the EA "got it".

Jan 12, 2016 at 11:29 AM | Unregistered Commenterottokring

It was the Sun wot dun him in.

Wanted Poster

Jan 12, 2016 at 11:30 AM | Registered Commentersteve ta

Bevan & Dilley together were the perpetrators of their own PR train wreck. Their reported Xmas antics infer a certain amount of PR naivite. A trivial inspection of press coverage of Somerset floods shows that media hostility is amplfied massively by lame excuses, fibs and studied arrogance.

That said the wave of recent upper tier departures at The EA has, I suspect led to plotting and intrigue on a grand scale (one area where EA have significant expertise). The eco-greenie contingent act in concert and I hazard a guess that the usual NGO placemen are looking to exploit the turmoil at this dysfunctional and regularly toxic quango.

Jan 12, 2016 at 11:47 AM | Registered Commentertomo

By the time of the floods it was too late : the horse had bolted.
The policy should have been set years ago as engineer based not greendream based.
Who was responsible for that cock up with the Fosse barrage in York ?

Jan 12, 2016 at 11:50 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

The media (and the hard of thinking brigade as well as the usual leftie bigots) have discovered how popular it is to find a scapegoat the minute something appears to be going wrong. It doesn't matter that in the normal course of events that person would have made no difference if he/she had been present or was not directly responsible for the activities they are being blamed for. The blame itself is all-important.
So a Prime Minister who doesn't come rushing back from the holiday he probably deserves more than his critics do or the chairman of the EA who actually had the gall to be on holiday when it it all went pear-shaped or the chairman of Northern Rock who was there primarily to add a bit of local prestige to the organisation end up having to carry the can because the gutter press and the brainless bigots that read it say so.
It doesn't matter how competent they actually are or how directly they are to be held to account. As long as a head rolls the tabloids and the sheeple will be happy.
The fact that you then end up with Dracula running the blood bank or a Deep Green running the EA is neither here nor there. The Sun and The Mirror have moved on to their next victim and "justice" (so-called) has been done.

Jan 12, 2016 at 11:52 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

It reminds me a little of the hysteria over the Royal family after Diana's death. The media objected to Her Majesty being at Balmoral, demanding that she return to "her people". The good folk of Aberdeenshire apparently didn't count as "her people", presumably because of their tendency towards a traditional British sense of proportion over such matters. But we are all to be Diana-hysterics now.

Jan 12, 2016 at 12:04 PM | Unregistered Commenterdearieme

Top DECC man moves to head trade body RenewableUK
Hugh McNeal takes over from Maria McCaffer in April
Was was Director Change at DECC... been civil servant there since April 2010 & before that green action stuff in Dbis
So that's a move from one top GreenBlob PR job to another top GreenBlob PR job.

McNeal that organised the incentives for Siemens BIG WIND TURBINE FACTORY in Hull, that's being built now to open in 2017... Yep I'd say Conflict of Interest.
(Tho hyped I have always thought it could end up making less turbines than they made out. Apparently they have one 750m quid order )

DECC's door is revolves faster than the average wind turbine.

Jan 12, 2016 at 12:09 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Where is the redoubtable "Henry" of when some insider perspective would be very useful.....?

According to David Rooke "assistant CEO" at the HoC committee last week the flows at the Fosse Barrier overwhelmed the facility. The fact that the EA appear to choose anecdotery from high status officials rather than hard evidence + formally presented analysis - speaks for itself.

@Mike Jackson - public discourse is getting noticeably more formulaic - a pantomime where the MSM have been allowed to frame the debate and dictate the terms of reference. There are few who stand up for themselves - Willie Walsh of IAG , Jim Ratcliffe of Ineos and last but not least Malcom Walker of Iceland come to mind - in general though we seem to have a tail wag dog thing going on...

Jan 12, 2016 at 12:16 PM | Registered Commentertomo

A big part of the flooding problem is it’s seen as a blip. A blip caused by AGW which isn’t anyone’s sole responsibility. Each department shrugs and blames climate change. There’s evidence to suggest that the 50s-90s were quite quiet in terms of rainfall but even if current rises are due to AGW, it’s not going to go away anytime soon. The EA can’t busy itself with salmon and wildlife while homes are regularly flooding. Someone needs to make unwelcome decisions.

You look at the pictures of the flooding and there are a lot of new builds on flooded land. Often walls are built to protect them but in giving them some safety, they take land that would have flooded and relieved the pressure on the older parts. Do you build higher walls and/or put in water delaying schemes up stream? Do you change the planning laws to block new builds or do you build homes that can deal with the flooding? Whatever, the rules for new development need to stop the impact on existing buildings.

You can’t pretend that mistakes weren’t made in the past and you can’t leave members of the public to deal with the fallout on their own. If we can’t afford to protect homes, those people need to know that and something needs to be done to help them. If the heads of organisations don’t get any support from ministers then they need to be speaking directly to the public. If they don’t we can expect to see a revolving door into the chairman’s office.

Jan 12, 2016 at 12:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Retweeting the ridiculous Figueres disqualifies her from most jobs, imvho.

Jan 12, 2016 at 12:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterCB

According to the EU Silt dredged from a slow flowing river bed is catagorized a hazardous waste.

Not as hazardous as leaving it there

Jan 12, 2016 at 12:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamspid

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Jan 12, 2016 at 1:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

He lied. Ergo, not to be trusted.

Jan 12, 2016 at 1:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Poynton

Jan 12, 2016 at 9:50 AM | Unregistered Commenter Jack Savage

As usual, it was the cover-up that did for him.

Spot on.

If he had just said "I can't control the rain" it would all have blown over.

But holidaying in the Sun when it Rains here and lying about it.
It seems untrustworthy.

Jan 12, 2016 at 1:59 PM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

"Her people", as far as the media are concerned, live in and around London. Balmoral is just a "nice" place to go for a holiday — sort of weekend cottage in the country only bigger.
I confess to being more annoyed at the ignorance shown by the demand to fly the royal standard at half-mast and the way that posing chancer Blair leapt on the bandwagon. I would love to have been a fly on the wall at his next audience with HMQ after that little fiasco.
I'm not saying that traditions cannot be changed but the standard is only flown where the monarch is in residence. It is never flown at half-mast because "the monarch" is never dead! There was never any justification for flying it at half-mast becasue the ex-wife of the heir to the throne had been killed in a car crash with her fancy man driven by a drunken idiot! The union flag if you like but the sovereign's personal standard?? What were they thinking?

You have it right. The proles are calling the shots egged on by the media and their insatiable demand for something new to regale us with 24/7. Trouble is the proles are ignorant (applies to all of us some of the time!) but those who are supposed to know better no longer do. Or no longer care.

Jan 12, 2016 at 2:00 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Whats strangest about this story is how it points up the readiness of practically any public body in this country, when challenged, to lie or at least to half-truth. Why do they do it? Can't they understand that if you lie about little things, no one will believe you over bigger things. The great and good desperately want the public to believe that this last round of floods was due to 'extreme weather' (climate change in action); a lot of people already believe its more to due with EU rules (proabbly gold-plated by domestic zealots) or just failure to do basic stuff that until fairly recently was routine, like dredging, or even more likely just complete failure/inability to spend the money properly. Why should we believe the stretching-credulity extreme weather pitch when they are so ready to lie about the chairmans Christmas holiday arrangements?

Jan 12, 2016 at 2:06 PM | Unregistered Commenterbill

That's a third board position they're looking to fill. Here are the others. It would be an ideal opportunity to ensure a change of mindset, but the position descriptions make it clear that the status quo will remain.

Jan 12, 2016 at 2:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...


As far as the EA is concerned the official dealings my liitle band of Wiltshire yokels has had with them (6 years wrestling) indicate that the lies are always used to try and wriggle out of things they've done wrong or perhaps of more concern to try and bluster and bully their way to their arbitrary "desired outcome". The arrogance of some officials is just epic - along the lines of "the truth is what we say it is" - how dare you impugn our dignity by having the temerity to offer evidence that flatly contradicts our version of events!

It's the sort of thing that brings public servants into disrepute - but unfortunately not into appropriate employment minding the litter in the local retail park burger drive through.

Jan 12, 2016 at 3:07 PM | Registered Commentertomo

If you wish to understand the head-in-the-sand attitude to the press at the EA, you have to do no more than look at the minutes for the last board meeting. Full of self-congratulatory puff about how the EA has a 99% favourable press (I guess they never read Booker on principle). It is perhaps no surprise that Pam Gilder, the director for PR has also resigned.

Jan 12, 2016 at 3:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...

What a total mess it all is :(
Politics & agenda resulting in Laurel & Hardy methodology reeking havoc with peoples lives

Jan 12, 2016 at 3:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterBLACK PEARL

Doesn't surprise me one bit. But where does it all come from, this propensity of public servants to lie when there is no real need to? Is it some kind of paranoia about potential litigation - similar to the way car insurers rather disgustingly exhort drivers to never admit they at fault in the event of an accident. Apart from their lying, the other thing that strikes me as mighty odd about modern public services is all the PR crap, logos etc. Why does the Metropolitan Police need a slogan FFS? God I hate these twerps. Years ago I used to feel sorry for the aristos as they were marched off to the guillotine in the French Revolution, now I understand how the mob felt; and if it were our modern aristos of the public sector, I too would be cheering and baying as their heads came off, one by one.

Jan 12, 2016 at 4:29 PM | Unregistered Commenterbill

bill, the glory of any revolution, whether bloody, or bloodless, is replacing one bunch of idiots, with another lot, who think they know better.

Jan 12, 2016 at 5:03 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Sir Philip Dilley

Irony for a guy called away from his exotic holiday to deal with flood damage gets hung out to dry.

He's hoping for a Brexit and go back and dredge the rivers.

Jan 12, 2016 at 6:47 PM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

"Silt removal?" Dredging...................The EA and Don't make me laugh.

Did you ever catch up with the EA blog?

I think you need to understand, the EA is not an institution remotely designed to manage river systems and in particular with respect to extreme spate episodes.

Post, the recent flooding - once more they're been caught with their knickers down - in the limelight and under the cosh.

"it's global warming and and and it'll only get worse!" they shrieked.

Evidently, they are flailing around for excuses and Dilley makes an all too convenient scapegoat, he is not fussed, with his pay off, pension pot augmented and being out of such an organization riddled through with Common Purpose - Dilley will think that he was bloody well better off out of it.

Dilley was vanquished and the sacrifice has been made, the green blob establishment wins again not least because someone with an engineering background and with more than half a clue is down the road - happy days and yippee!

Plus, the EA is saved for another day of, weeks, months, years of lolling civil servants tossing it off on the taxpayers ticket facilitating; endless paperwork, petty graphics, green surveys, building bird habitats, more flooding and bigger disasters in the future.

Mmmm, How long is it to wait for my pension and pay off and now.... "where's my new company Audi - Baby?"

Jan 12, 2016 at 9:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.


Madame Guillotine has her attractions... but in truth seeing a despised "manager" collecting fast food litter in a poorly fitting hi-viz getup in freezing wind and rain would be a grand substitute for decapitation.

The serially exasperating thing is that little or nothing is done to discipline the miscreants even though the legal mechanisms exist - the relevant laws are like ceremonial swords and axes screwed to the walls......

As far as Emma is concerned - if she tries on the undiluted Green Blobbery approach with her fellow travelers in the executive - they must be challenged. It's actually got to be against a bunch of Civil Service rules for her to keep those affiliations - I reckon....

Jan 13, 2016 at 12:19 AM | Registered Commentertomo

Don't blame the EA blame the EU

BREXIT vote coming up and Brussels has banned dredging UK hrivers very smart.

Jan 13, 2016 at 8:54 AM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

ICYMI Guido is onto this

I hope he's going to bite and pull hard on this one - she cannot stay - NOT with that CV - no way.

Jan 14, 2016 at 6:12 PM | Registered Commentertomo

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